Plato's Soul and the Homunculus Problem

1745 Words Aug 19th, 2013 7 Pages
Plato’s Theory of Soul and The Homunculus Problem
Rebecca Vinci

Plato’s theory of the soul and the Homunculus theory of human cognition are two distinct theories that both allude to the concept of a mind having smaller parts within it that are assigned to certain tasks and each responsible for the function of a certain cognitive capacity which, together, explain some aspect of the functioning of the whole Both theories use this cognitivist concept as an attempt to explain the complexity of the human mind and how the mind can function in multiple ways at once. However, the theories differ in a major way. Plato’s theory of the soul is a famous and controversial theory– which has been pondered since antiquity. The Homunculus theory is a
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According to a version of this theory, a visual homunculus in the brain sees an image of the object. However, the homunculus theory has a major weakness – it becomes subject to a philosophical dilemma First part: If the visual homunculus can see to the same degree as the whole person can, but we don’t think it is necessary to explain how it sees, then there should not be a need to explain how the whole person sees in the first place? Without a need for explanation the theory of a homunculus is void. Second part: The second part of the dilemma arises if there is need for an explanation: if everything that can see that also needs an explanation must have a visual Homunculus in it, and the visual homunculus itself can see, it too must have a visual homunculus in it, and another in that one, and so on, creating an infinite cycle of regress, never arising to a genuine explanation. Plato’s theory of the soul shares resemblances to the Homunculus Theory, but the question remains, is it subject to the Homunculus Dilemma as well? If innocent, Plato’s theory has found a way to avoid the dilemma; however, a guilty verdict would corrupt Plato’s credibility and refute his theory.
Some vulnerability to the Homunculus problem can seemingly be found in Book 4 of The Republic. On page 1073, 442 b-c, Plato argues: “And it is because of the spirited part, I suppose, that we call a single individual courageous.” Here